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It’s official: the next Windows will support ARM

by Scott Bicheno on 6 January 2011, 12:25

Tags: Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA), ARM, Windows 8

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Turning point

Convergence is a very over-used word in technology, but surely it's the defining concept of this year's CES, which seems more like Mobile World Congress so far, and is set to host a raft of Internet TV announcements today.

Possibly the announcement most symbolic of the convergence of the computing and embedded technology worlds has come from Microsoft. After keeping the PC version of its Windows OS away from the mobile phone world since it was created, the software giant has announced that the next version will support the ARM instruction set - which is ubiquitous in mobiles - as well as x86.

At Microsoft's CES keynote, Windows president Steven Sinofsky demonstrated the next version of Windows running on ARM, which included full Office running natively.

"With today's announcement, we're showing the flexibility and resiliency of Windows through the power of software and a commitment to world-class engineering," said Sinofsky. "We continue to evolve Windows to deliver the functionality customers demand across the widest variety of hardware platforms and form factors."

There were also plenty of partner quotes trotted out, with Microsoft careful ensure the x86 brigade got an equal amount of Daddy's attention. "We look forward to a new wave of innovation made possible by Windows and AMD Fusion APUs," said AMD's Manju Hegde.

"While still in the future, what is so exciting is how our two companies will be able to match a tailored, low-powered Windows operating system with future generations of our popular Intel Atom processors to deliver unique, PC-like experiences," said Douglas L. Davis of Intel.

"We are excited by today's announcement, which marks a significant milestone for ARM and the ARM Partnership, and we look forward to working with Microsoft on the next generation of Windows," said ARM's Warren East.

"Windows combined with the scalability of the low-power ARM architecture, the market expertise of ARM silicon partners and the extensive SoC talent within the broad ARM ecosystem will enable innovative platforms to realize the future of computing, ultimately creating new market opportunities and delivering compelling products to consumers."

NVIDIA makes a CPU

Qualcomm, TI and NVIDIA also said their bit, but the latter had some major ARM-related news of its own at CEO Jen-Hsun Huang's CES event. NVIDIA will be building CPU cores  - yes, CPUs - based on ARM architecture, under the codename ‘Project Denver', which are designed for PCs and supercomputers.

This seems to revolve around another announcement, that NVIDIA has licensed ARM's Cortex A15 core design. Not only will these cores combine with NVIDIA graphics in future Tegras, but NVIDIA will fundamentally integrate its graphics with the ARM cores to develop unique silicon with Project Denver.

"ARM is the fastest-growing CPU architecture in history," said Huang. "This marks the beginning of the Internet Everywhere era, where every device provides instant access to the Internet, using advanced CPU cores and rich operating systems.

"ARM's pervasiveness and open business model make it the perfect architecture for this new era. With Project Denver, we are designing a high-performing ARM CPU core in combination with our massively parallel GPU cores to create a new class of processor."

"NVIDIA is a key partner for ARM and this announcement shows the potential that partnership enables," said the busy East. "With this architecture license, NVIDIA will be at the forefront of next generation SoC design, enabling the Internet Everywhere era to become a reality."


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HEXUS Forums :: 7 Comments

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And its the windows tablet stratergy.
I'm just thinking if it will be full desktop version or just tablet one that will not support all the software for “normal” Windows due to lack of x86 instructions.
If Microsoft will end up creating the software x86 instruction emulator then ARM might not have enough power to run it.
Well yes and no.

If you've programmed it in .Net then it will run on it surely? If you've programed it in Java… haha no one does that any more.

The thing is, this could be bad news for intel. The Revo PC type machines which can be had for <£140 excluding a monitor but everything else. They might just get that little bit cheaper without any intel costs and just a SoC.
I'm just thinking if it will be full desktop version or just tablet one that will not support all the software for “normal” Windows due to lack of x86 instructions.

The article suggests it'll be the full desktop version. How they'll handle code compilation between ARM and x86 versions is anyone's guess (although, as TheAnimus says, if you've developed in .NET it shouldn't be a problem, so I guess it'll be another boost to the .NET framework… ;) ).
Not until Win8 is released though, obviously, so a long time for hardware/software to develop!